Sister Mary Clarence pounded on the dorm door once more. “Chelsea Childling, open your door!”
Chelsea stared at the cheap, pressed particle board, wondering if the nun had the strength to knock it down. When Mary Clarence started pounding again, Chelsea sighed. She’d known this confrontation was inevitable. She’d just planned on the inevitable being much later. And maybe over the phone, long after she’s moved out of the dorm and quit school.
She unlocked the door and opened it to a red-eyed Mary Clarence. The old nun wrapped her arms around Chelsea. “Poor thing.”
Chelsea stood frozen, unsure what had happened.
“Oh child, I hope you aren’t—” The nun cut off as she straightened her back. “Chelsea?” Hard, dark eyes studied her.
Chelsea swallowed. She’d never been able to hide anything from Mary Clarence. There was no way to disguise the fact that she’d been drinking instead of eating the last eighteen hours, or that she’d been crying on and off the whole time. Several bottles worth of booze threatened to come back up.
Mary Clarence cupped Chelsea’s cheek. “What happened last night? I’m so grateful that you weren’t in the car with Alex, but what happened?”
In the car?
A vague memory surfaced. Scott telling her that the monster hunters would make Alex’s death look like an accident. Tears welled up and Chelsea’s injured knee couldn’t support her weight any longer. She dropped to the floor and wasn’t surprised when Mary Clarence joined her.
“N-nothing happened, sister.” Chelsea swallowed. “My friend Anna called, asked me to go out for a drink with her. I did. I don’t know what Alex did afterward or why.”
Mary Clarence shook her head. “Why are you leaving us again, child? You cannot take the blame for Alex.”
Yes, I can. If I hadn’t gone monster hunting, we’d have gone straight home. And he wouldn’t have gotten killed by the vampire that I didn’t take care of.
There was no explaining that to the nun though.
People with known mental disorders don’t get the benefit of the doubt.
The old nun sighed. “It’s okay, Chelsea. I know a calling when I see one.”
It took a few moments for the words to sink in. Chelsea stared at Mary Clarence, heart pounding.
A smile creased Mary Clarence’s face. “I wasn’t always going to be a nun. I wanted to be a concert pianist.” A giggle escaped, dropping twenty years from the nun’s face. “I was going to have a different lover, male and female, every night, and do all of the drugs.”
Chelsea found herself smiling with the nun.
Mary Clarence bumped her shoulder into Chelsea’s. “But then I took a simple drawing class, just something to pad out my college application. I fell in love with art, and how it depicted God. It took me three years to admit that what I wanted was to bring people to God through art.”
Tears threatened. Chelsea rubbed at her eyes, fighting not to cry, again. Tears didn’t help. They didn’t make her feel any better, and they couldn’t bring back Alex.
“Child, I don’t know what’s calling you, but you haven’t been here, with us, since Dink died. I wish it was otherwise, and I tried… I tried to tie you here with Alex…” Mary Clarence sucked in a breath, but her throat wouldn’t let her speak with ease. “I knew weeks ago that that wouldn’t work. You were already gone. And now this…”
Chelsea nodded, her unwanted tears falling. She’d been with Jackson, and Amber, hunting in her mind, if not in reality.
I’m sorry Jackson. I should have stayed with you.
Her eyes drifted to the unfinished portrait of the hunter. She’d worked on it this morning, and for the first time, felt like she could finish it.
“Is it him? Is he what’s calling you?”
Chelsea sniffed, unsurprised that Mary Clarence had picked up on her thoughts. The nun had an uncanny ability to flush out romantic entanglements. “No, sister. Not him, specifically, but he’s a part of it.”
“Can you tell me about it? Please?”
Inspiration struck, and Chelsea hoped she could lie well enough to fool Mary Clarence. “You wouldn’t approve of me fighting for a living.”
The nun sucked in a breath, and her words were hot and scandalized as they streamed out of her mouth. “You can’t paint with broken fingers, Chelsea.”
The first real laugh since in over a day broke out of Chelsea’s stomach. It went on and on, and Mary Clarence’s glare grew darker.
“You have a real talent, child. It’ll be wasted on hurting people for a living.”
Still chuckling, Chelsea leaned her head on Mary Clarence’s shoulder. “And how often do you play piano these days?”
“Point taken.” Mary Clarence snorted. “That pretty boy fights for a living?”
Chelsea studied the barely started the portrait of Jackson Hawk that graced her easel. The cocky smile and the knowing eyes. The incredibly kissable mouth. He was pretty, with his high cheekbones and flop of dark hair. She sighed. “He’s far better at it than I am.” He was, too. Chelsea had several years of kickboxing under her belt, but Jackson Hawk put her to shame in a fight.
The skin of Mary Clarence’s hand was wrinkled and cold, but her grip was strong as she clutched at Chelsea’s hand. “Promise me that you’ll keep painting, no matter what?”
Chelsea swallowed the lump in her throat. “Even if I have to switch to latex samples from the paint store.”
“That’s good enough for me.” Mary Clarence leaned over and planted a kiss on Chelsea’s forehead. “Your mother would have wanted you to do whatever makes you happy. And your father would have burst with pride at you fighting for a living. He was insufferable when you started kickboxing.” She flashed a wry smile. “Just don’t ask me to watch a match. I couldn’t stand to see you get hit.”
“Not a problem, sister.” I don’t want you to ever see a vampire or any other monster.
Mary Clarence climbed to her feet with a small groan. “You have to finish… packing. And I have a class to prep for. Keep in touch, Chelsea, and oh God bless you, I will miss you.”
Chelsea sprang off the floor to wrap her arms around the nun. “I’ll miss you too, and all of this.”
“We are what we are.” Mary Clarence smiled. “Be happy with what you are, not miserable with what you think you should be. Goodbye, Chelsea.”
Chelsea walked her to the door. The small bang of the cheap particle board settled in Chelsea’s ears like thunder. She wiped away a stray tear and turned back to her packing.
Keep the Adventure going.
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